Day 20: The sound of clinking metal around my hips marks the start of the first rotation. Following a quick ascent to a plateau near Crampon Point, Lakbah (my Sherpa) and I take turns to pull the fixed ropes out from under 10-20cm of hard snow. From this point on, the slope gets progressively steeper reaching 55-60 degrees at the foot of the ice-wall, a 40m pitch of vertical blue ice. Both crampons and ice axes stab the ice beautifully, but the heavy backpack and high altitude boots (i.e. not very technical) make this section rather hard work (no walk in the park on Makalu I’m afraid!). Not far from here, at 6425m, we tuck up for a good night’s sleep after setting up C1, although admittedly we were on the lazy side with the shovel work (ouch). On day 21 we give ourselves a slow start as we know C2 is just 200m above us (that is vertical distance). Once the morning sun has de-iced our sleeping bags and we have taken a few sips of coffee using the same mug from which we drank litchi tea and spicy tomato soup (without ‘much’ cleaning), we pack up and head uphill. After negotiating a few crevasses (deep enough to send greetings to Lucifer) we catch a glimpse of C2 at the foot of the big rocky wall leading to Makalu-La. Once we’ve set-up camp and start melting snow for soup, the wind picks up and settles at 80-120km/h (should that be IAS or TAS? Anyone?), but all we’ll have to do over the next 24 hours is to sit tight, listen to the roars of the mountain, and let our bodies acclimatise at 6,641m. Day 22: Earplugs prove largely ineffective against the buffeting wind, so it is still in the hours of darkness that we breakfast on scrambled eggs and bacon (not even joking, who’d have guessed they do that as dried food?) and start our descent to ABC. As we leave our tent, we appreciate the dichotomy of the mountains: half hell, half heaven. While Makalu’s wrath continues to batter us with high winds, a few miles west the sun kisses Everest and Lhotse with rose tones. Can’t wait for the second rotation.
If at first you do succeed, hide your astonishment.
Update: I got a trainer out here in Beijing, he is rehabbing my ankle/leg with physio and boxing 🥊 I’m pretty much walking without crutches 🤯 I may have a small op on my foot in the coming weeks but only with local anaesthetic so not gonna count it
Awesomesauce!!!! Today we had our snow travel class with SMI! So glad we did this!!!! We went over our knots and step variations and how to rope up and safely travel and self-arrest! We practiced several ways, falling bottom first, face first and even sliding on our backs upside down and learning how to gain control and properly use our ice axes to self-arrest!!!! Now we can continue to practice what we learned today and be safer on the mountains and be better stronger partners for future Sierra trips 🌲⛏🏔 training for Mt Shasta 💪